Once object of Rangers’ desire, Price ruins postseason dreams

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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lebreton In the off-season, when the Texas Rangers were shedding their lineup of home run hitters and dollar-craving free agents, they reportedly inquired with the Tampa Bay Rays about a trade for pitcher David Price.

No one has ever said publicly how far the talks went. Price, 28 years old and the reigning American League Cy Young winner, had three more years of club control before reaching free agency.

The most prominent rumor had the Rangers offering then-teenaged prospect Jurickson Profar for starters.

But the deal went nowhere, as Price and the Rays reminded everyone Monday night.

With one sudden-death night to earn a postseason berth, lefty Price went the distance and pitched Tampa Bay to a 5-2 victory.

Trade David Price? The Rays, headed to the postseason for the fourth time in six seasons, just might one day. Tampa Bay astutely knew when to say when as outfielders Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton hit free agency. The Rays’ foresight in dealing veteran pitcher James Shields brought them star-in-the-making Wil Myers.

Price will become a free agent after the 2015 season. That’s not nearly soon enough to have helped the Rangers on Monday night.

The Rays’ story on this “Tiebreaker Night” — MLB even had a logo ready — could be told easily by Price’s pitching and the three-hit night of third baseman Evan Longoria.

On nights like this, when it’s win or go home, a team’s best pitcher and best hitter are supposed to lead it to victory.

But for the Rangers, the stars were unable to shine on this final night. Instead of being able to send ace Yu Darvish to the mound for this all-important game, the Rangers had to start him Sunday, as they ended a weeklong scramble just to reach the tiebreaker game.

Rookie lefty Martin Perez got the start, far from a desperation choice. But in his first three innings, Perez often looked like a 22-year-old who had the weight of his team’s season on his young back.

Perez allowed the first four Tampa Bay hitters of the game to reach base in a one-run first inning. Two innings later, he surrendered a walk and a two-run homer to Longoria.

The Rays had a 3-0 lead, and with Price on the mound for nine innings, never really had to look back.

On nights like this, the best are supposed to shine. But Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre was clearly bothered by a hamstring problem of some sort. Nelson Cruz, playing in his first game in nearly two months after a 50-game suspension, was a rusty 0 for 4.

The Rangers batted nine times with runners in scoring position against Price and managed only two hits.

But so went the season for these Texas Rangers. The club lost Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli to free agency in the off-season and traded away veteran Michael Young.

And while none of those moves will get any arguments here, the Rangers never were able to replace the offensive production that they lost.

Right fielder Alex Rios, acquired in an August trade with the White Sox, more than did his part to rally the Rangers during a struggling final month.

But once Cruz was suspended, the home run became an infrequent sight at Rangers Ballpark. The team’s new mode of attack — bunting, stealing and manufacturing runs — is fine, but not on a team with so few on-base grinders.

And so, with Price’s and Longoria’s help, the Rangers wrote the final chapter on their season Monday night.

The fans — 42,796 of them — were loud, but their heroes went quietly into the night.

A busy off-season seems in store. But that was supposed to last winter’s plan, wasn’t it?

As we were reminded Monday night, the Rangers still need bats. They need base runners. They need a face-lift, of sorts, to their lineup.

And, oh, yes, they still could use a David Price, in case the Rays are interested.

Gil LeBreton 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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